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In Defense of Lost Causes Hardcover – April 17, 2008
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“iek leaves no social or cultural phenomenon untheorized, and is a master of the counterintuitive observation.”—New Yorker
“The giant of Ljubljana provides the best intellectual high science since Anti-Oedipus.”—The Village Voice
“iek is a thinker who regards nothing as outside his field: the result is deeply interesting and provocative.”—Guardian
“iek is one of the few living writers to combine theoretical rigor with compulsive readability.”—Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Slavoj iek is a Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic. He is a professor at the European Graduate School, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London, and a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His books include Living in the End Times, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, In Defense of Lost Causes, four volumes of the Essential iek, and many more.
Top customer reviews
The book switches gears at a seemingly lightening fast pace, from a perplexing defense of Satanism, to his vexing chapter regarding Heidegger and his role in Nazism, to Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, to rationalizing that Stalinism saved the word. According to Zizek, Either Lenninist or Trotskyite would've led to a dehumanized mechanistic Soviet reality, he asserts that Stalin was responsible for restoring a "human element" to the Soviet Union in the form of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the purges. Zizek goes on to say that if the show trials hadn't required confessions, to maintain empathetic complicity of the general citizenship, then going forward into the Cuban Missile Crisis negotiation with Americans would've impossible. It's a fascinating take while being a bit hefty to weigh.
Often Zizek shows promise that take on trajectories of irrelevancy. The reader is lulled into agreeing with him until he makes one of these sharp left turns, still, Zizek has the gift of being able to wax on abstract concepts with ease, clarity, humor, and eloquence. He never leaves one bored. To end, at one point Žižek harks back a very Badiou sentiment and remarks that the revolution is only produced after a series of failed efforts end up paving the way for success. "Fail again, fail better!" indeed.
This book is divided against itself: parts of it are outstanding while other parts are esoteric and non-sense other than for members of a strange sect of what I call novo-Marxists.
Its basic theses that failures of the actual praxis of revolutions do not negate some of their values and that global capitalism should not be accepted as irreplaceable by better alternatives are well taken. The discussions of coping with biogenetics are fascinating. And many other insights make the book as a whole worth reading.
However, instead of focusing on main theses and working out coherent alternatives to global capitalism, or at least indicating ways to inventing such alternatives, the book gets lost in at least four labyrinths: (1) It devotes a lot of space to debates with other "sect members" on esoteric issues and responses to their criticism of the author's writings; (2) the book is one-dimensional in its assumptions on human psychology, relying i on some versions of Lacan and Lacanian reinterpretations of Freud, completely ignoring alternative and not less "scientific" schools of psychology; (3) it is captive to Marxian paradigms, making artificial efforts to fit important ideas into outdated language games, instead of bravely developing new paradigms; and (4) the authors pins his hopes on "trust in the people" without any non-anecdotal justification either in history or social sciences.
The fourth error is the most serious of all, undermining the main thrust of the book. The author relies on the new global excluded population of slum-dwellers as the new "good old Marxist...proletarian revolutionary subject " (page 425), where one should look for "signs of the new forms of social awareness that will emerge from the slum collectives: they will be the germs of the future." (page 426). This ignores the realities of slum populations as revealed in empirical studies, ignores radical differences between various groups of slum populations, and leaves out of account the near-certainty that if they should endanger a state or the global order, they will be easily and effectively "repressed" in one way or another.
The author demonstrates in this book ability to contribute to an urgently needed paradigmatic global revolution, but not as long as he is captive to phantasm. What is really needed is some kind of a "Global Leviathan" containing the danger of "the acts of a single socio-political agent [who] can really alter and even interrupt the global historical process [for the worse, up to global calamity] (page 421, my additions in brackets) and to take care of new forms of the "common" as rightly discussed by the author. But such a Global Leviathan can probably only take the form of an authoritative oligarchy of main powers, contrary to from the dreams of the authors.
To make a real contribution of at least some historic significance, the author needs a good dose of "subtraction" (to use a favorite term of the book) from the ideological traps in which this book is caught.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem